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Pwllheli RNLI has closed over “ongoing distrust and disharmony” between crew members at the North Wales lifeboat station.

According to BBC News, a number of key personnel have also resigned from the station, prompting the RNLI to “reset operations”.

“Until we’ve got a safe number of crew and a safe management structure to support that lifeboat station, we’re not able to go back on to service,” said the RNLI’s Wales manager Ryan Jennings.

A statement from the RNLI said its decision to close the Pwllheli station was “not taken lightly but is considered necessary to move forward with an inclusive and sustainable lifeboat station…for many years to come”.

Pwllheli is a regular haunt for Irish sailors taking part in the annual ISORA races.

BBC News has more on the story HERE.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Crews from the Aran Islands and Galway RNLI stations took part in a joint training exercise on inner Galway Bay this past Saturday (27 January).

The training was an opportunity for the crews from the two flanking stations to work together on a number of boat-handling and seamanship exercises to prepare for future joint search and rescue missions.

Brian Niland, helm with Galway RNLI who led the exercise for the Galway crew said: “We were delighted to welcome the Aran Islands RNLI crewm onboard the all-weather Severn class lifeboat David Kirkaldy, to Galway for a training exercise off Salthill.

“It was impressive to see the larger Aran Islands lifeboat and see how the two lifeboats can work side by side.

“The training was a great learning experience for both crews and will help us when we are requested to launch together, to help those in danger in the water. Our volunteer lifeboat crews spend many hours training so we can meet the dangers and challenges we face at sea.”

Galway RNLI crew on board the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Binny leaving Galway Port with the Aran Islands RNLI crew on board the all-weather Severn lifeboat David Kirkaldy | Credit: RNLI/Aoife MorrissyGalway RNLI crew on board the Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Binny leaving Galway Port with the Aran Islands RNLI crew on board the all-weather Severn lifeboat David Kirkaldy | Credit: RNLI/Aoife Morrissy

Aran Islands RNLI coxswain Aonghus Ó hIarnáin said: “Saturday’s training exercise was a good chance to meet the Galway crew and show what the lifeboat from each station is capable of.

“The type of lifeboat a station has depends on geographical features, the kind of rescues the station is involved in and the cover provided by neighbouring lifeboat stations.

“Our Severn class lifeboat is designed for the offshore long jobs we face in the toughest weather, while the Galway Atlantic class lifeboat is one of the fastest in the fleet and is ideal for rescues close to shore, near cliffs and rocks which may be inaccessible to our all-weather lifeboat. Working together we are able to carry out search and rescue throughout Galway Bay.

“Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, RNLI lifeboat crews are ready to answer the call to rescue. If you see someone in trouble at the coast call 112 or 999 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Cyclists will ‘Lap the Lake’ for the third year running to raise funds for Lough Derg RNLI on Saturday 11 May.

With Lough Derg RNLI marking 20 years of lifeboat service on the lake in the same year that the charity that saves lives at sea celebrates its bicentenary, the 2024 fundraiser will be a doubly special occasion.

As with the 2023 event, cyclists may again choose between a 120km route or a shorter 65km one.

The longer route will take participants on a full circuit of Lough Derg, giving entrants the chance to cycle through three counties: Tipperary, Clare and Galway. The shorter route will take cyclists to just beyond Killaloe, to a turnaround point at the Twomilegate lakeside amenity park.

Whichever route riders chose, they will have the opportunity to delight in the outstanding beauty of the lake and the River Shannon.

Riders’ safety and well-being is also a priority, with first-aid providers, out-riders, marshals and bike maintenance stops along the routes, as well as comfort and refreshment stations.

“We were thrilled with the success of the previous two years’ Lap the Lake cycle,” said Laura Clarke, chair of the event committee. “We were blessed with fine weather so that cyclists were able to enjoy the most breathtaking scenery around the lake.

“2024 is a particularly special year for the RNLI as the charity marks 200 years of lifesaving work. This event, now open for registration, is about raising funds for our local lifeboat on Lough Derg, which celebrates 20 years of service.”

Event tickets are €65 per person for the full route and €50 for the shorter route. All funds raised will go to Lough Derg RNLI. To find out more and to book your place among the riders this year, visit the Eventbrite page HERE.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Tramore RNLI went to the aid of one person on a pleasure boat with engine failure last Thursday evening (18 January) in the Co Waterford crew’s first call-out of 2024.

An emergency call received by the Marine Rescue Co-ordinating Centre (MRCC) from a stranded half-decker pleasure boat in Tramore Bay saw the volunteer lifeboat crew called into action.

The single occupant of the pleasure boat had raised the alarm on their mobile phone to say they had engine failure about a kilometre from Tramore Beach.

Helmed by Fergal McGrath and crewed by Peter Kelly and Kevin Lehane, the inshore lifeboat was launched shortly after they were paged at 4.45pm, and they were on scene within two minutes.

It emerged that the casualty vessel had lost engine power and was drifting towards the beach. The crew assessed the situation and decided to tow the broken-down boat to Tramore Pier, where it was tied alongside at 5.15pm.

Speaking following the call-out, Tramore RNLI helm Fergal McGrath said: “Well done to the casualty, they did the right thing in calling for help as soon as they felt they were in trouble and we were delighted to help.

“We would encourage anyone planning a trip to sea to always go prepared, always wear a lifejacket and always carry a means of communication. Should you get into difficulty, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Skerries RNLI were tasked on Saturday morning (30 December) following a call to Dublin Coast Guard reporting that a kitesurfer was in difficulty off Portrane beach.

The Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Louis Simson was launched by s shortly after 11.30am. After rounding the headland of Red Island, the crew entered a course to steer for Portrane in their onboard navigation system.

Conditions at the time had a westerly wind, Force 3 to 4, with a slight sea swell and good visibility.

As the lifeboat arrived on scene, the volunteers were provided with up-to-date information which was being relayed from a member of the coastguard on shore, and were guided to the kitesurfer’s location.

Following a conversation with the kitesurfer, it was quickly determined that he was not in need of any assistance. He did however accept the offer of a lift closer to the shore, to allay any fears of those that had raised the alarm.

The lifeboat assisted the man on board and dropped him close to the shore, before returning to Skerries to recover the boat and make it ready for the next service.

Speaking about the call-out, volunteer lifeboat press officer Gerry Canning said: “The gentleman was actually very well equipped and within his comfort zone. However, he was using a wing foil and it’s easy to see how it was mistaken for a kite in the water.

“A false alarm with good intent is still a good outcome and our volunteers were glad to discover the man was not in any distress. We will always encourage you to dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard if you think you see someone in trouble on the water.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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On Saturday 30 December, Valentia Coast Guard requested Lough Derg RNLI to launch to investigate whether anyone was in trouble aboard a 20ft cruiser reported aground west of Garrykennedy Harbour.

At 3.30pm the inshore lifeboat Jean Spier launched with helm Eleanor Hooker, crew Chris Parker and Joe O’Donoghue on board. The wind was southerly Force 5, gusting Force 7, with fair visibility but heavy squalls.

Eleven minutes later, the lifeboat located the casualty vessel midway between Garrykennedy Harbour and Parker’s Point.

The lifeboat navigated a safe passage to the vessel, which was grounded on rocks close to the shore. An RNLI volunteer went aboard the vessel to determine whether there was anyone on board and in need of assistance, but found the vessel was empty. The RNLI crew located the boat’s registration so that Valentia Coast Guard could make contact with the owner.

Given the location and the deteriorating weather conditions, the helm made the decision to make the vessel safe, deploy its anchor, secure its canopy and leave it at the location. The lifeboat helm informed Valentia Coast Guard of this decision.

Lifeboat helm Eleanor Hooker advises boat users “to check the mooring lines on your vessel to ensure they are secure, particularly in anticipation of poor weather conditions”.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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“On the application of the local residents, the RNLI committee decided to open a lifeboat establishment on Arranmore Island. The site for the boathouse and slipway was kindly granted by the landed proprietor Lieutenant F Charley, and the expense of the boat and equipment was defrayed from a legacy bequeathed to the Institution by Richard Vandeleur of Dublin.” — RNLI Archives, 1883

On 1 September 1883, the first lifeboat — aptly named Vandeleur — came to Arranmore and was crewed entirely by volunteers. Today, 140 years later, the ethos of volunteering is still strong among islanders and the volunteer crew of Arranmore RNLI are still ready at a moment’s notice to drop everything and answer the call.

Recalling the most notable rescue by Co Donegal island’s lifeboat station, former crew member and deputy coxswain from 2000-2011, Jerry Early said: “My father Andrew always remembered watching the lifeboat go out and thinking that the crew and lifeboat would never return such were the horrendous conditions of the sea and storm-force winds.”

On 6 December 1940, the Dutch merchant ship Stolwijk had lost power and went on the rocks off Tory Island in Donegal. Ten of the crew were lost, with 18 survivors clinging on to the stern as huge waves washed over them. It took the lifeboat four hours to reach the stricken ship and a further four hours to rescue the remaining 18 sailors. A breeches buoy line was utilised in the rescue and unfortunately it broke several times.

With the survivors on board, the lifeboat made its way to Burtonport, again another four-hour journey to drop off the rescued sailors and refuel.

The lifeboat had to stay at Burtonport harbour overnight as the crew were exhausted and the weather conditions were still too dangerous to return to Arranmore. In all, the lifeboat and crew spent 22 hours rescuing the crew of the Stolwijk. The lifeboat crew were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals from the RNLI and similar awards from Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands for the rescue of her compatriots.

These events are recalled in a tribute by Jerry Early, who shared: “Listening to my father talking about the men who went out on that call inspired me to write the song ‘I’ll Go’ with my cousin, John Gallagher.”

A painting of the Arranmore lifeboat’s rescue of survivors from the Stolwijk features on the cover of Jerry Early’s single “I’ll Go”A painting of the Arranmore lifeboat’s rescue of survivors from the Stolwijk features on the cover of Jerry Early’s single “I’ll Go”

The lyrics of this song honour the brave lifeboat men who risked their lives to save fellow sailors. The hopeful tone of the chorus — “I’ll go and do the best I can / I’ll do what must be done / I’ll go cause I’m a lifeboat man / I am my father’s son” — evocatively sums up the dedication of lifeboat crews throughout the service.

Families are an integral part of the RNLI crew and in Arranmore the involvement and support of families can be traced through the generations from the first crew of the Vandeleur to the present day.

Brian Byrne can trace his family’s service on the lifeboat back to 1883 when his great-great-grandfather, Brian O’Donnell, was appointed the first coxswain on the Vandeleur. His grandfather, father, uncle and brother John, all served on subsequent lifeboats. Brian’s father Neily Byrne and uncle Phil Byrne were awarded bronze medals for their part in the rescue of the Stolwijk crew.

Furthermore, Phil Byrne was awarded a silver medal for leading his lifeboat crew on a successful medical evacuation from Tory Island to the mainland in raging north-westerly gales to save the life of a seriously ill young boy.

Brian recalls being on the rescue mission to Tory with many members of his family: “I remember being on the lifeboat that night; my uncle, Phil, was the coxswain, my father Neil, my brother John and cousin Bernard O’Donnell were also onboard.”

For context, Bernard’s grandfather Paddy O’Donnell was one of the recipients of the bronze medals for the rescue of the Stolwyjk crew, as were his uncles Phil and Neily Byrne. His brother John also served as mechanic/coxswain on the lifeboat.

Brian continues: “Because of the bad weather we couldn’t land the lifeboat at the pier and the yawl bringing the boy to the lifeboat got into difficulty after getting the boy on board the lifeboat. We got the yawl safely back to the island and then took the sick boy to Burtonport. He was taken to Letterkenny Hospital then.”

Arranmore RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat with the slopes of Errigal in the distance | Credit: RNLI/ArranmoreArranmore RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat with the slopes of Errigal in the distance | Credit: RNLI/Arranmore

Describing his first shout, Brian says: “I think I was in my early teens when I went out on my first lifeboat call. It was to a yacht anchored off Arranmore with the anchor drifting and we had to stay out all night until the yacht set sail the following morning. As a young fellow I don’t think I was ever really thinking about how dangerous it was to go off out on a shout in stormy weather. I suppose it’s just part of your life when you live on an island, it’s what you do.”

Philip McCauley has been the Arranmore RNLI mechanic/coxswain since 1996. He was appointed after his cousin John O’Donnell retired from the position. It’s clear to be seen that the lifeboat runs in the blood since Philip’s great-great-great grandfather was Vandeleur first coxswain, Brian O’Donnell, and it was Philip’s grandfather Phil Byrne who was awarded silver and bronze medals for the Tory and Stolwijk rescues respectively.

When islander Mark Boyle returned from America, he promptly joined the lifeboat crew. Mark’s father Charlie had served as mechanic while his grandfather Jack, who had served as coxswain, was awarded gold medals for the Stolwijk rescue.

In the early years of Arranmore RNLI, it was local men with a knowledge of the sea who went on a call for the lifeboat. Prior to the first motor boat in 1902, boats were open to the elements, powered by oars and sail with speeds of up to 3-5 knots and the crew relied on long oilskin coats and sou’westers to protect them from the wind and rain.

Today’s lifeboats are state-of-the-art vessels, equipped with advanced technology, capable of speeds over 25 knots on the all-weather lifeboats and 35 knots on the inshore rigid inflatable boats. Crew members come from all walks of life and are trained in all aspects of boat handling, on-board equipment, technology, first aid and everything involved in saving lives at sea.

Arranmore’s crew are also getting a purpose-built boathouse, which will be operational in 2024 and will cater for on-site crew training, housing boarding boats, launching vehicles and adequate facilities for the crew.

So many things have changed over the last 140 years for the RNLI on Arranmore but the one constant theme is the volunteer ethos. One thing that never changes is the courage, dedication and selfless instincts of lifeboat volunteers who, without a thought for their own safety, go to help their fellow sailors.

So as you ring in the new year, spare a thought for the men and women who will say, ‘I’ll go’ — 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Christmas is a time for family and, for many, a time for sharing stories of times and generations past. For the Chambers family from Portrush, on Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast, these stories often involve saving lives at sea.

Jason Chambers and Karl O’Neill are cousins and are following a long line of their family who have served on Portrush RNLI lifeboats.

Karl and Jason’s great grandfather Karl D Chambers was mechanic at Portrush from 1924 to 1947. Karl had spent 17 years in the Royal Navy serving in destroyers on the North Sea. Gilbert Chambers, Karl’s son, had assisted his father in the engine room took over as mechanic in June 1947. Gilbert received two thanks on vellum and a BEM in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 1975. Gilbert was also second coxswain.

Gilbert’s son Derek was then appointed mechanic and coxswain, becoming one of the few full-time coxswain/mechanics in the RNLI. Derek’s brother Anthony succeeded him as mechanic and subsequently as coxswain/mechanic, serving Portrush RNLI for 40 years until his retirement in 2020. Anthony was awarded a bronze medal from the RNLI in recognition of his rescue of two boys who were trapped in a cave at Castlerock in 2010.

Jason Chambers, carrying on the family tradition, is a helm on the D boat and relief mechanic. Karl O’Neill is a deputy coxswain on the all-weather lifeboat and area supervisor for the RNLI Lifeguards in Northern Ireland.

Both Karl and Jason said: “There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families — especially at Christmas. But as volunteer lifeboat crew we couldn’t launch without kind donations from the public which fund the kit, training and equipment we need to save others and get home safely to our own families.

“We are proud to be carrying on the family tradition serving the community at Portrush RNLI — we like to think they would be very proud.”

On average, RNLI lifeboats launch over 100 times during the Christmas period every year. Whatever weather winter throws at them, RNLI crews are ready to battle the elements to save lives at sea.

These rescues, and others all year round, are only made possible by the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the RNLI is launching its annual Christmas fundraising appeal for 2023 with a focus on the generations of families who have volunteered their time and commitment to ensure the charity’s lifesaving service has continued for nearly 200 years.

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, and enable the charity to continue its lifesaving work, visit RNLI.org/WinterAppeal.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Larne RNLI father-and-son duo Frank and Jack Healy plus father and daughter Martin and Sami Agnew have been reflecting on what it’s like to be on call together as both family and fellow crew members.

On average, RNLI lifeboats launch over 100 times during the Christmas period every year. Whatever weather winter throws at them, RNLI crews are ready to battle the elements to save lives at sea.

These rescues, and others all year round, are only made possible by the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews.

Frank Healy has been a lifeboat crew member at Larne RNLI for 29 years, 27 of those as coxswain. Before that he was a crew member at Red Bay RNLI, further north along Northern Ireland’s East Antrim coast, for three years. His son Jack joined the Larne crew in August 2018.

For five years now, Frank and Jack have been regularly training together and have been on a number of the same call-outs.

So, what’s it like to be on the crew with a family member? “I do enjoy Jack being on the lifeboat,” Frank says. “I enjoy seeing him go through the various stages and achieving the different goals — it’s hard to put into words how proud I feel when I see him doing that.”

But like many families who have a loved one on the lifeboat, there is concern too when they put the lifeboat to sea.

“Recently, on one of the shouts,” Frank recalls with a smile, “I had to put Jack aboard another vessel at two o’clock in the morning in a Force 8 gale and everyone thought it was a great achievement and a great job. Except his mother — and she gave me such a hard time for putting his life on the line.”

Father and daughter Martin and Sami Agnew aboard Larne RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/LarneFather and daughter Martin and Sami Agnew aboard Larne RNLI’s all-weather lifeboat | Credit: RNLI/Larne

For Frank though, it was no surprise when Jack decided to join the crew: “I was absolutely delighted that he was going to be a part of it, but I had no doubt that that was going to happen because Jack had shown such an interest from an early age. When I was going out on shouts he would wait up until I came in and the first thing I would hear was this voice from our little boy’s bedroom: ‘Dad, what was it?’

“His achievements within the lifeboat also — it’s probably one of the drivers that is keeping me on the lifeboat. I enjoy going out training with Jack and I particularly enjoy when we go on call outs together. It’s really rewarding when you go out on a shout and you come in and everything has gone well but to have your big son beside you when you do it, it’s pretty special.”

Meanwhile, Sami Agnew joined the lifeboat crew in Larne in October 2009 following in the footsteps of her father Martin, who marks 25 years of volunteer service next year.

“Being on the crew with my dad is very special’ following in his footsteps makes me very proud and always having him there when I need him is like an extra safety net,” Sami says.

For both families, Christmas will be no different than any other day on call this year and should their pagers sound, they will be ready to respond.

“There’s no feeling quite like bringing someone home safe to their families,” Sami adds. “But as volunteer lifeboat crew we couldn’t launch without kind donations from the public which fund the kit, training and equipment we need to save others and get home safely to our own families.”

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the RNLI is launching its annual Christmas fundraising appeal for 2023 with a focus on the generations of families who have volunteered their time and commitment to ensure the charity’s lifesaving service has continued for nearly 200 years.

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal, and enable the charity to continue its lifesaving work, visit RNLI.org/WinterAppeal.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

A Little Book of Happy Swimming Locations is a new guide to some of the hidden gems and well-known spots ‘for taking a dip’ all around Ireland.

Launched last month, this is the second book on the theme by open water swimmer Catherine Mulcahy. In 2021 her first book, A Little Book of Swimming Happiness, was a great success and raised over €10,000 for the RNLI.

Speaking of her love for open water swimming, the author says: “As long as I remember I have loved the sea. My mother initially introduced me to sea swimming at The Strand when I was a toddler, a local swim spot near our family home in Cork. This ‘grá’ for the sea has since evolved into a genuinely unconditional love!”

A Little Book of Happy Swimming Locations celebrates swimming around Ireland and features 50 contributors favourite swim spots.

The book is beautifully presented with photographs and commentary from swimmers who share their favourite swimming spots with the readers.

The book has a cover price of €20 with 100% of the proceeds going to the RNLI. It is available online from Nourish at and also available to purchase in-store in south Co Dublin at 64 Wine and Cavistons in Glasthule village and Cafe du Journal in Monkstown. All stockists are selling the book at 0% commission.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
Page 5 of 160

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